Picture a bird. What comes to mind? For those in California the mighty albatross might flash upon the mind’s eye. In Louisiana, one might think of the pelican or lanky crane. And for our Washington, DC neighbors, it’s quite likely one first imagines the majestic bald eagle or crimson cardinal. The point of this playful diversion is to illustrate how familiar we are with the breadth and splendor of our feathered avian friends. Now think of an oyster. Odds are, most will come up with the similar image of a craggy, oval shell. Yet there are a myriad of variations in oysters and mollusks in general that to discuss them all would fill volumes. Instead, we’ll dissect two of our favorite oyster groups: true oyster vs. pearl oyster.
Oysters may be divided into several groups, with true oysters leading the pack in familiarity. This family, called Ostreidae, include the scrumptious eastern oyster, Pacific oyster, and Olympia oyster. True oysters account for the vast majority of oysters that enter the human diet. One has to wonder to what depths of hunger and desperation the first man to eat an oyster must have been driven. But we digress… This is a discussion of true oyster vs. pearl oyster and, while it is possible for true (food) oysters to produce pearls (any shelled mollusk has that potential), they should not be confused with actual pearl oysters (the family Pteriidae). These are a different group entirely.
In the true oyster vs. pearl oyster rivalry, it’s clear to which side Spey inclines. Pearl oysters give us the magnificent South Sea and regal golden South Sea pearls, the dainty akoya, and the enigmatic Tahitian pearls. We quiver with delight. But there are other groups of oysters, as well: thorny oysters (family Spondylus), saddle oysters (family Anomiidae), and windowpane oysters (family Placunidae) being the more notable. Within each of these are numerous varieties and fascinating discoveries. The truly important thing, regardless of your preference for true oyster vs. pearl oyster or another oyster group, is that this bedrock species is protected. Mollusks are filter feeders and help purify our lakes, rivers and oceans. Explore how Spey is helping one such mollusk in our beloved River Spey.